Through the years there are many names that have been given to the dandelion, from lion’s tooth to clock flowers to puff balls. Some go so far as to call them “pee in the bed” flowers. I’m sure many who take pride in a well manicured lawn have had other names for them I can’t repeat here. My Dad who immigrated from Holland to the U.S. called them “American tulips.” Regardless of your name for dandelions, what Mom hasn’t enjoyed a bouquet of the yellow beauties from a child proud to hand them over. How about kids (or kids at heart) taking dried dandelion flowers and blowing them off the stem and into the air? The reality as I understand it is that the name dandelion is derived from the French for Dent de Lion or tooth of the lion.
The dandelion has an amazing history with years of use for health, medicinal, diet or just plain taste issues. Dandelions weren’t always present in North America, it appears they were immigrants too from European settlers whose culture used dandelions in their diet. Dandelions were even cultivated for their amazing tap roots and the latex they produced. The latex was used to aid the production of rubber during World War II shortages.
There are many great weed killers today to help you eradicate these “survivalist” weeds from your lawn. They’re tough to control because the tap root is extensive as a perennial root and the ubiquitous flowers in May spread a lot of seed. I like to spot treat with triclopyr in a pressure tank sprayer. If you use a “weed and feed”, make sure to apply it when the weeds are actively growing, air temperatures are between 60 and 85 degrees, and the foliage is wet so the herbicide applied will stick to the foliage.
If you don’t want to use weed killers, or limit your use of weed killers in your lawn, you can be very successful in controlling dandelions with the following approaches. I call it “weeding by example”……
1) Mark your calendar for September and October! The weed killers you use in fall will be very effective in their control. Everyone attacks dandelions in spring because they’re so obvious. In the fall as a perennial root, they prepare for winter with translocation from foliage to root, a very effective time to spot treat. 2) Cut the grass. When you keep cutting the tops off dandelions it weakens the plant and they don’t produce as many flowers that eventually become seed producers. 3) Use some organic corn gluten on your lawn. Corn gluten is a nitrogen source for your lawn and helps inhibit seed germination. It won’t kill existing dandelions, but it will help keep spreading seed from germinating. 4) Get a hand dandelion digger and learn how to manually pull them getting as much of the tap root as possible, it’s great exercise and fresh air. It’s very rewarding to fill a basket of dandelions, tangible evidence of your “fishing” expedition. 5) Finally, “weed by example.” Whether it’s dandelions or any other weed, you will have much better natural control contingent on the cultural practices you employee on your lawn. Raise the deck on the mower to shade out seed trying to germinate. Have a thick healthy lawn, well fed to give it the competitive edge against invading weeds. Test your soil ph. I have helped many people significantly reduce weeds in their lawn by just simply making a few easy cultural care adjustments. It’s called, weeding by example!